Hand Anatomy, Physiology, and Use

"Human-Hands-Front-Back" by Evan-Amos - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Human-Hands-Front-Back.jpg#/media/File:Human-Hands-Front-Back.jpg

The Usefulness of Man’s Hand

The hand is one of the most intricate and useful mechanisms of the entire human body; it is a prehensile (appendage for grasping) that humans share with chimpanzees, lemurs, and monkeys; even Koalas have opposable thumbs that are very similar to the thumbprints of the hands of humans. We humans absolutely have the ability to “think” with our hands; when we consider their connection to the brain we find the hand contributes to our thoughts and feelings. Fingers contain some of the most dense nerve endings on the entire body. The hand is greatest source for tactile feedback on the body and has the greatest impact on the sense of “touch”.

The hand has an intricate connection with the eyes and brain partially because they have the greatest mobility of any part of the human body. Each hand is paired with a dominant opposite side of the brain in the same fashion as the eyes. This “crisscrossing” of neuronal passageways occurs throughout the nervous system. The primary motor cortex is responsible for movement in the hands and body and executes movements in concert with the rest of the motor cortex.

There are 27 bones in the hand. 14 of which are in the fingers. There are 24 muscles groups innervated by various motor and sensory pathways that comprise 3 nerves: the radial, ulnar, and median nerves. These cascade to form 2500 nerve receptors per square centimeter on the surface of each hand.

Bones of the Human Hand

Lets start by looking at the bones. Each finger has three sections of bone: distal (fingertip), middle, and proximal; the thumb has two, theHand Bones middle bone is simply missing in between the top and bottom bones. The proximal bones connect to five metacarpals which connect to the eight carpal bones of the wrist. The fingers have 14 bones, the wrist has 13. The wrist has significantly more ligaments and less sensory nerves and mobility that the fingers. The bones of the hand_bones_detailed wrist are known as the carpal/carpus bones(from the Greek καρπὁς, “carp” means to pluck; an action the wrist performs) and there are eight of them (in order of ossification, or bone tissue growth): Capitate, Hamate, Triquetrum, Lunate, Trapezium, Trapezoid, Scaphoid, and Pisiform. Sometimes the radius and ulna bones are considered a part of the hand because of the role they play in the articulation of the wrist. There are also a large number of sesamoid bones in the hands (named after sesame seeds because they are so small). They are usually found near the thumb and are often formed in response to strain; they act like a pulley system for muscles and ligaments to slide over and spread muscular forces.

Ligaments and Tendons of the Hand and Wrist

In the hand, there are 18 ligaments that are separated into four groups:

  1. The ligaments of the wrist proper which unite the ulna and radius with the carpus: the ulnar and radial collateral ligaments; the palmar and dorsal radiocarpal ligaments; and the palmar ulnocarpal ligament.
  2. The ligaments of the intercarpal articulations which unite the "Braus 1921 201" by Braus, Hermann - Anatomie des Menschen: ein Lehrbuch für Studierende und Ärzte. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Braus_1921_201.png#/media/File:Braus_1921_201.pngcarpal bones with one another: the radiate carpal ligament; the dorsal, palmar, and interosseous intercarpal ligaments; and the pisohamate ligament. (Shown in red in the figure.)
  3. The ligaments of the carpometacarpal articulations which unite the carpal bones with the metacarpal bones: the pisometacarpal ligament and the palmar and dorsal carpometacarpal ligaments. (Shown in green in the figure.)
  4. The ligaments of the intermetacarpal articulations which unite the metacarpal bones: the dorsal, interosseous, and palmar metacarpal ligaments. (Shown in yellow in the figure.)

In the image below, Hand_ligaments you can see how the blood vessels travel between the fingers next to the nerves and the padding of the hand on top of the ligaments used to keep the wrist bones compact as they rotate and move through space. The Ulnar nerve is on the left, near your pinky, and Grays_arm_nervesthe radial nerve is closer to your thumb and is almost entirely dedicated to its innervation and sensitivity. The median nerve is in the middle and acts as what is probably the primary sensory nerve. This nerve innervates your pointer finger and middle finger, which are your primary fingers for tactile sensing. There is a depiction from Gray’s anatomy on the right that shows how the three nerves flow through the arm down to the fingers.

The Hand’s Muscles Groups

I could probably write an article on each of the finger muscles exclusively. Bear with me as we go through these muscles groups. The muscles of the hand are some of the most sensitive and finely tuned muscles in the body. They are normally separated into two categories: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic muscles have their muscle belly (the majority of muscles fibers) on the forearm.

The intrinsic muscle groups are the thenar (thumb: Abductor pollicis brevis abductsFlexor pollicis brevisOpponens pollicis) and hypothenar (little finger) muscles; the interossei muscles originatingHand_muscles2 between the metacarpal bones; and the lumbrical muscles arising from the deep flexor digitorum profundus muscles (and are special because they have no bony origin) to insert on the dorsal extensor hood mechanism.

The fingers have two long flexors located on the underside of the forearm. The deep flexor attached to the distal phalanx (farthest) and the superficial flexor attaches to the middle phalanx. These are what allows your fingers to bend. The thumb also has two flexors, one long and one short and these work together with the thenar muscles to allow the thumb to grasp. The thumb is quite a complex mechanism in and of itself; kinda makes me want to write an article on it.

The extensors on the top of the forearm arrange in an even more complex way. The tendons unite with the lumbrical and interrossus muscles to form the extensorhood mechanism. The extensors straighten the digits. The thumb has two extensors on the forearm which form the anatomical snuff-box, or the triad at the base of your thumb. The pointer finger and little finger both have an extra extensor for pointing.

The Skin of the Hand

The skin of the hairless side of the hand (palm) is very thick and can be bent easily while maintaining connection with the muscles and bones of the hand. Palm skin is usually lighter because of inhibited melanin (skin pigment) production and therefore don’t tan. Fingerprints, or the papillary ridges exist to increase friction when the hand is grasping an object. The skin of the top of the hand is soft and pliable to allow the fingers to recoil quickly.


The hand is complicated, especially in terms of muscular innervation, but we are still learning enormous amounts about how they have evolved into their current state. Comparative physiology is very useful for this and we are constantly exploring more about ourselves through animals and our genetic ancestors. If you have any requests for articles, or interesting additions to this one, please ask. Feel free to add anything that I have missed, or to ask any questions in the comments.

sources (besides Wikipedia):
1. http://www.oandplibrary.org/al/pdf/1955_02_022.pdf (Craig L. Taylor PHD & Robert J Schwartz, MD)
2. http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/conditions/ailments-of-the-big-toe/Pages/Sesamoiditis.aspx
3. https://ispub.com/IJFS/1/2/9047#sthash.lchtoImt.dpbs

Chemicals in Yoga


Everything is chemical. It is the basis of all matter in the universe.

It is easy to think of some chemicals as good and some as bad, but this is really a silly way to look at it, because most chemicals are useful in one form or fashion. Some interact poorly with the chemical composition of your body and this is why you view them as good, or bad, or what have you.

The truth is, that chemicals have a very real potential and a very real danger when misunderstood and mistreated. Some great examples are drugs, oil, water, food, really all of the imbalances that we perceive in our current world are chemical imbalances. But we ourselves are natural and chemical, so it is important to remember that being a human is having a mostly stable chemical composition.

So we can say that certain chemicals, especially purified chemicals, can be extremely potent to the human body and can enact change within the body, to produce a certain effect. This has become known as medicine, where we take mostly plants and process them, somehow to interact with the body.

Even the word ‘naturally’ is a corrupted word in modern marketing; synthesized chemicals are certainly natural, but people tend to think that natural means closer to nature, or less processed. But since processing itself is natural, everything is viewed as natural. So it is a repetitive word that can be ignored. But in any case, saying chemical is repetitive. Of course it is chemical.

What people really are referring to when they say they want less chemicals is that they want less processing, less synthesis and more extrapolation. Purity is becoming more and more preferable as an ideal in food and cleaning products and things that we are exposed to, which is really a transference from other aspects of culture, religiousness and such from our ancestors.

So its important to realize that there is nothing that happens inside of you that isn’t there. All of the chemicals in your brains are what create all of your experiences. Each one has happened inside of you. Drugs are not magical, they interact with the brain in very specific patterns, however, we have coined drugs as strange chemicals with strange effects, things to be feared. They are not things to be feared, but parts of your self to be understood. For each acts as a mirror, a specific poison giving you a window into the unknowable, into the deep fathoms of your unconscious mind. To fear a drug is to fear an aspect of yourself, and perhaps there is no greater fear than to fear yourself.

Drugs are really an internal interaction cause by the reaction of introduction of a new substance. Your experience on the drugs is your bodies reaction to them, the processing of them. It is not something that exists outside of you, although you have introduced a foreign substance into your body’s chemical make-up. So your body is essentially reacting and this is what you experience. This is why certain drugs have nearly no long-term effects and some have effects that can last a lifetime, because your body is more or less efficient at processing them. And it learns and adapts. This is why psilocybin can have less and less effects the more that you do it, the same with LSD, marijuana, etc. So there is really nothing happening outside of what your body is doing and how it is interacting and reaction to the substance that you have introduced to it.

This leads us to see the body as having an enormous potential and as understanding how we subjectively view things as changing us. In fact, we are changing ourselves.

To move on to some more significant discussion, I would like to talk about 3 substances, chemicals, which yoga seems to have a tremendous effect on. Serotonin, Dopamine, and Melatonin are in my opinion three of the most interesting molecules or chemicals in existence.

All three are hormones/neurotransmitters, all three are present in a vast spectrum of life, contributing to the homeostasis of lifeforms across the biological spectrum.

Melatonin might be the most interesting, seen in plants, fungi, and bacteria in anticipation for the daily onset of darkness. In humans, it regulates the internal clock, or circadian rhythm, as well as seasonal cycling. There are many popular uses for melatonin, but there are few studies on its long-term effects and there is almost no research to show usefulness as medicine, or therapy. Its long-term effects are almost completely unknown. However, it can be found in the retinas of the eyes and seems to interact in very strong ways with dopamine and serotonin, and has a tremendous effect on the immune system and for protecting specific important cells. It is used as a drug primarily to allow humans to co-exist in nocturnal environments.

Dopamine is an intrinsic part of the action-reward cycles of conscious attention and is extremely important for learning. It interacts strongly with melatonin and can be found in the retinas of the eyes as well. Melatonin and dopamine both interact in interesting ways to light, stimulating dopamine while suppressing melatonin. This is mostly affected by stimulants, such as cocaine (why users always want more), or ADD medications such as adderoll, conserta, ritalin, etc. By overstimulating the prefrontal cortex and the dopamine pathways within, you can keep hyperactive children quiet, because their brain is receiving added stimulation from the slow release of chemicals in their brain. It is what allows for beings to interact intelligently with their environment.

Serotonin is one of the most interesting hormone/neurotransmitters in the body. 90% of it is in the gut, yet it is known as the happiness neurotransmitter. Its is probably the primary communication device between the stomach and the brain. Again, the messenger is found in fungi and plants, and it is believed it is one of the primary factors in a feeling of abundance or scarcity of resources. It is also evidenced to have a role in social rank, because the availability of food signifies this. It can also have an effect in stimulating bone mass. Studies have also shown that nutrition in early life can have an effect upon the body later in life. This is the chemical that most euphoric drugs are attempting to target, with the exception of cocaine. MDMA is one of the purest ways to stimulate serotonin release from the synaptic vesicles of neurons.

Now lets talk about yoga. It’s easy to see how yoga can affect the dopamine system; rebalancing due to lack of stimulus. This is why many people find yoga to be tortuously boring, yet understand the effect of spending an hour and a half in mindfulness, or mediation, or whatever. Dopamine regulation is indeed a major goal of the yogic practice: to keep the fluctuations of pleasure and pain on an even keel. Thus you keep the mind from fluctuating.

Melatonin is something that seems to receive large effect from yoga, as sleep patterns have been clinically evidenced to improve from yoga classes while even studies on injected dopamine have not evidenced the same positive effects. Learning to cycle with the sun, or at least to adjust to the sun’s cycling is an intrinsic part of the yogi’s journey. “Sun Salutations” seem to have quite a bit more meaning in light of the melatonin system.

Serotonin, lastly, is one of the more interesting of the three. This is where nutrition in yoga starts to become a larger and larger factor. Eventually, you will begin to find more equilibrium within your digestive system to optimize time in the yoga studio, in the asana, as it would be. Your bodies nutrition can have a direct effect upon your happiness, though modern science has nearly no data on this type of emotional nutrition relationship. There is too much money to be made in between the science with fads such as fat-free, sugar-free, diet, which are really marketing campaigns for food manufacturers.

With yoga, you can find balance between the three systems, inverting the bodies fluids moving them around, heating them up in various ways and using various techniques, breathing, sitting still, and a certain concentration on nothing to allow the pleasure/pain/stimulus/reward system to re-balance.

Enlightenment, it seems, could be broken down into the consistent flow of dopamine, without fluctuation, seratonin flushing from the gut up to the brain through inversions such as Sirsasana, Sarvangasana, and continually folding forward, bending the spine back and forth to get the circulatory system pumping everything into a balanced state for the body to enjoy for the day. Intense yoga classes can also stimulate the adrenal glands in specific ways that allow for deeper relaxation and “letting go”.

Just some thoughts, some research that I did on Google Scholar, etc. If you would like me to post some supporting evidence I’ll be happy to!



Ayurveda | आयुर्वेद

Ayruvedic Oils: from right to left, Lavender, Saffron oil, Sandalwood oil, Lotus oil

About 80% of the world’s population relies on tradition remedies for their health care needs. India has many alternative medical practices that date back over 5,000 years, alongside yoga in the Indus Valley Civilization.

Ayurveda means “knowledge of life” and includes the use of herbal medicines, mineral or metal supplementation (rasa shastra), surgical techniques, opium, probiotic, CannabisIndica, and application of oil bymassages. In the laboratory, Ayurvedic techniques have shown promise, however, due to the enormous amount of confounding variables associated with the healing techniques, many applications of Ayurveda have yet to be proven. Part of the reason for this is that Ayurveda is used to promote vitality, wellness, and optimal health, which is hard to measure in the body, compared to illness and  visible cellular degeneration.

The other reason that America has no idea about the effectiveness of Ayurveda is that there is little money in it. Almost all of the plants used grow naturally and are therefore unpatentable. However, I believe that Ayurveda has tremendous value in application and am going to explore the Indian knowledge of its uses while I am here. But it is very hard to find real scientific data behind the practice of Ayurveda here.

There is one major problem with Ayurveda; many of the processing and mixing techniques are not effective in mass production. This can lead to oils having too many heavy metals and toxic chemicals such as Mercury and Arsenic. The answer to this problem is toxicology and spectroscopy of the final produced products, which is not a readily available practice in India due to the economic circumstances. However, the higher quality oils are somewhat guaranteed, at least this is what I have learned from foreigners and locals alike. The best manufacturers create pure oils.

Within the first four nights of living in Mysore, I have met two of the major pure oil suppliers (not-mixed) and the most renown statue maker in India. All were very persuasive business men that I kind of had to dismiss because they were so interested in selling to me, partially because I am an American and partially because I am a potential customer. I’ll talk about the statue maker later with some of the Hindu religious practices, temples, and deities.

The first supplier was excellent. I could see the quality of his oil, pure, and the distributor assured me that they were highest quality and that he used them himself. He said there was only one distributor with higher quality oils than himself. I will be returning to him, but he sold me lavender, which I find to be extremely soothing and helps me to sleep. It also has anti-septic and anti-inflammatory properties and is relatively easy to find and process into oil.

The second supplier was even better. He assured me that he was the highest quality supplier in India and that Kino MacGregor and other yogis come to him personally to supply themselves with oil. He showed me letters from satisfied American customers and all had amazing things to say about him. If possible, I will be starting an export business in the US with him, which he agreed to. But I also stipulated that I would need toxicology reports on the chemical mixtures of the oils. He agreed, but has no idea how to do it. Maybe I can figure out how to use spectroscopy to measure this, but I am pretty sure I will need to find another partner skilled in pharmacology, or some similar discipline.

I bought Lotus oil, Saffron oil, and Sandalwood oil, all at very good prices $10 for 25mg. Saffron is very rare, it should last me a long time and is used for energy, known as a mood enhancer because of the way it interacts with serotonin in the gut, and is used to increase respiratory health. Lotus oil is used for meditation, but is relatively unstudied in the lab. Major uses include arthritis, diabetes, and fungal infections. Sandalwood oil is the final oil I bought and is used for mental health, focus, and raises blood pressure. All of the oils have anti-carcinogenic properties.

I am very satisfied with the quality of the oils, but I am really interested to learn more about how they interact with body chemistry and affect the different organs. It is really silly that we don’t know more about these basic remedies, instead of finding new chemicals that can be patented. It shows the corruption of the current American pharmaceutical industry, that is not interested in healthy people, but making money. It’s not really a criticism, just an objective observation. There is interest in helping people, but the corporations are not regulated appropriately to really produce the most efficient, quality results. The problem again, is mass consumption and production instead of personalization and customization for the unique qualities of each individual.

Here are a few more pictures from the last few days:

Mysore Garbage Collectorbuilding_under_construction desolation in India indian_workers

Attention Deficit Disorder


My Way of Doing “Art”: ADD

ADD and ADHD are the same thing, there is no meaningful difference in the classification, in case you thought there was. ADD (or add the H if you want to be outdated) is one of those hot topics in America that really doesn’t make sense to me. Giving children medicine for being overactive is the stupidest shit I have ever heard of. They need more recess, more adventure, less of those four walls and desks. It is a lacking on the part of our schools and our teachers to properly administer education to our leaders, the rebels, the gifted, the children who are not going to just sit and listen to someone who is boring and doesn’t really care about what they are teaching. The ones that need to be doing, not sitting still and listening. Our culture is so inoculated with pharmaceuticals and convenience that these two concepts have cascaded into our schools and we think that our children need to conform to these principles. But you know that there is not a single neuroscientist out there that can define ADD chemically, right? It is a psychiatric label that doesn’t actually exist! The only way to diagnose, like many other bullshit misunderstood psychiatric illnesses, is through personality diagnoses and self diagnosis through personality traits. Neurologists are sure ADD is a variance in the dopamine pathways in the prefrontal cortex and executive center of the brain, but they have no idea why and not a one can define the difference between a normal brain, and an ADD brain beyond personality traits and semi-formulated dopamine regulation theories.

So our culture is labeling something that we don’t understand and calling it negative when children with ADD tend to have higher IQ’s, be more active, more rebellious, more disrespectful towards authority, and unique in their view of the world. Sounds like we need more of those kids…We call it a problem and fix it, when there is nothing to fix; these are our future leaders! This isn’t a disorder, it’s a gift, and we need to understand these children and help them to flourish to find peace and fulfillment. Our schools need to change so these children can succeed in their natural creativity, not stifle it with amphetamine analogues that are just as powerful, maybe sometimes more so, than cocaine.

When I was young, I did a lot of stupid shit. Like pouring water buckets onto other kids heads, or pushing kids off slides, or kicking my sister. That’s how I learn, by making mistakes. I was a pretty wild kid, with a lot of energy and my mom would take me to the park a lot to run around and scream. This translated nicely when it came to sports, but in school, it was no-good. My first grade teacher was the first to say, he is disruptive but he seems to be learning the information just fine himself, he’s distracting the other children. Cue the dramatic piano music and thus begins my relationship with pharmaceutical drugs, particularly amphetamine analogues, and this would continue into my 20s. But I was better behaved for my teachers at school and I didn’t care about taking a pill in the morning. I was six. I even won student of the month. One time, in first grade. I don’t think I was a very good student, as far as the teachers were concerned though, I had great relationships with most of my younger teachers, but as I grew older I grew more disagreeable with my teachers.

Anyways, according to modern neurologists and psychiatrists I have a brain disorder, but no one really knows what causes it, they just know it has to do with the prefrontal cortex and that stimulants seem to provide the stimulus saturation needed to keep someone with ADD focused. So there really is a huge unknown here, something that we really can’t explain with the current state of neuroscience.

So I kept taking medication until high school, which was the first place I started to really question ADD. I read books about it, learned about the personality types of people with ADD and thought it wasn’t so bad. Maybe I would try no medication for a while. One semester during summer school, my history teacher said he was willing to do an experiment. Three weeks on the medication, three weeks off the medication, so see where I performed better. The three weeks with medication won, by far. This is a perfect examples of the problem with the schools; the amount of learning I was achieving was less important than my behavior. I actually think the idea of ADD is 100% a result of America’s current schooling system. I’m not saying that a chemical basis for ADD doesn’t possibly exist, but that our schools should be fully able to handle these students with ease.

I’ll tell you a bit about my personal experience with ADD. Boredom is a constant for someone with ADD, we are always looking for new way to stimulate ourselves, entertain ourselves, whatever. So when I was younger, I was extremely impulsive; I would just do things all the time to see what would happen and a lot of times these actions were very intrusive. So its easy to be annoying when you have ADD. Sports were tough until I was older because I really couldn’t regulate my attention or focus yet. My focus something I really had to tame.

Focus is the key to ADD, learning to use it and keep it constant rather than constantly fluctuating up and down. Having ADD as a kid is like riding a dragon, seriously, its terrifying, rewarding, painful, and bumpy. But as I learned to harness it, the tool of my focus became more and more powerful. Hyper-focusing became rather easy and now I am in control of my attention. Really dealing ADD is really more about hormone regulation than anything else. Thank god for yoga. Now onto the awesome stuff, the legendary, the reason why we have to stop alienating and medicating these kids. When I started creating art, I realized I had a gift for translation, for expression, for getting down to the core of ideas, the humanity of things. The best teacher I ever had was David Bischoff, because he taught me how to see art, how to trace influence, and visually analyze anything really. He taught me how to see things differently than I ever had and I was captivated every class. I needed more teachers like that when I was a kid, people who told me to look outside of the box of the classroom and go see the world. But in truth, I was very lucky, and absolutely could have seen myself not being as successful as I was in the system (I have my BA, yay!).

I found yoga when I was 20 and that sealed the deal. Yoga is how I regulate my attention and my hormonal balance and I would put yoga into the first grade at public schools if it were up to me. No one ever told me there were ways I could regulate my own attention. Everyone turned to medicine, which I am not mad, sad, or judgmental about, I just think there might be a better way.

I think what really needs to change is the education system, not the pharmaceuticals. Children need personalized education, group education is great too, but one on one time is so valuable for our younger generations. If kids with ADD had adults that could keep up with them in one on one situations, the attention span of the child will stop being a problem. Personalized teaching for someone with highly creative, highly intelligent, and extreme intuition sounds like a good idea to me. So where does that leave us?

The biggest problem in the world right now is education; we can solve the problem soon, if we put our budgets and our minds to it, but we are too busy waging war in the Middle East and letting the UC system go to shit. Let’s reprioritize. Kid brains and kid happiness over weapons and defense.

Endocrine System – The Body’s Way of Talking


Endocrine System: Chemical Communication

The endocrine system refers to a collection of glands that secrete hormones into the circulatory system to target a distant organ with chemical messages. These tend to be slower processes, such as growth, menstrual cycles, or circadian rhythms, but also refer to procedures for dealing with stress and the environment. The notable endocrine glands are:

  • the pituitary gland – about the size of a pea, this gland protrudes atpituitary gland - the Endocrine System the base of the hypothalamus, there are two lobes in humans that regulate growth, blood pressure, pregnancy and childbirth, breast milk production, sex organ functioning, thyroid gland function, metabolism, osmolarity and water balance, temperature regulation, pain relief and sleeping patterns (but this is mostly the responsibility of the pineal gland. This is the seat of control of the mind over the entire body, hormonally speaking.
  • the pineal gland – The gland produces melatonin to regulate sleep cycles and circadian rhythm and the hormone is very sensitive to light. Descartes viewed the gland as the gateway between the body, mind, and soul and considered it to be the third eye. When children become teenagers, production becomes delayed leading to later sleeping and waking times.
  • the pancreas – largely regulates the digestive and lymphatic pancreas - the Endocrine Systemsystems, secreting insulin, glucagon, somatostatin, pancreatic peptide, and assists in digestion by secreting pancreatic which is a blend of digestive enzymes
  • ovaries, testes – ovaries release: estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, and unfertilized eggs; testicles release sperm and androgen (steroid hormones, primarily testosterone)
  • thyroid gland – one of the largest endocrine glands with two lobes around the trachea, below the thyroid cartilage also known as the Adam’s apple. It controls how quickly the body uses energy, makes proteins, and uses other hormones. It does this by producing hormones that regulate growth and rate of function of othethyroid gland - the Endocrine Systemr systems. Hormonal output of the thyroid gland is controlled by thyroid stimulating hormone produced by the anterior pituitary lobe, which itself is regulated by thyrotropin-releasing hormone produced by the hypothalamus
  • parathyroid gland – Humans usually have four, located on the back of the thyroid gland that produce parathyroid hormone and calcitonin. Together, these hormones regulate bone physiology including calcium levels and phosphate levels and reabsorption levels via the kidneys, so that the levels of these chemicals are optimal for the nervous and muscular systems to function
  • hypothalamus – a small portion of the brain located just above the brain stem with specialized cells to link the nervous system to the endocrine system via the pituitary gland. All vertebrate brains have a hypothalamus, which produce neurohormones that stimulate the secretion of pituitary hormones, controlling body temperature, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, different processes of the autonomic nervous system.
  • gastrointestinal tract – releases hormones to help regulate the digestive process, including gastrin, secretin, cholecystokinin, and ghrelin
  • adrenal glands – endocrine glands that sit atop the kidneys, responsible for stress hormones cortisol and corticosteroids, and also catacholamines, like adrenaline and noradrenaline. These cells also produce androgens to assist the body in dealing with stress, and the glands activate both the nervous and endocrine systems to work react to stress.

These glandular organs together make up the endocrine system, which sends chemical messages throughout the body, similar to the nervous system, however, the effects and mechanisms of the system are very different in their processes.

Glands? What are those?

The word gland is used for any organ that is used to excrete hormones for release into the bloodstream or into cavities inside of the body or to its outer surface. There are also two types of glands to be aware of: endocrine and exocrine; the latter uses ducts and bodily cavities for transport while the former uses the circulatory system for transport.

The exocrine system is a collection of glands that operates differently than the endocrine system, but is extremely useful to the body. The exocrine system uses three different methods of excretion:

  1. Merocrine glands – cells excrete their substances by exocytosis (cellular waste removal by containing the waste,then releasing it
    a mammary gland
    a mammary gland – the Endocrine System

    outside of the cell): i.e. pancreatic acinar cells

  2. Apocrine glands – cells that excrete by concentrating their waste, then cutting of a bud of the cell with the waste
  3. Holocrine glands – The entire cell disintegrates to release its substance

It is easiest to understand the exocrine system by how it functions: it comprises sweat glands, salivary glands, mammary glands, and the liver. Together, the exocrine and endocrine systems work all of the glands of the body to remove waste.

Endocrine System Bodily Operations

The endocrine system operates differently from the exocrine system, in that it works via the circulatory system. Many organs have secondary endocrine functions in addition to their primary roles in the body. Endocrine organs usually signal themselves in groups and in certain orders, referred to as an axis. The Greek words ἐνδο- endo-, inside or interior and κρίνειν krinein, to separate or distinguish are  useful for understanding what the endocrine system does. It is essentially specializing specific organs to work in unison for specific bodily functions, including growing, sleeping, and the most basic of physiological needs, such as hunger and urination. In unison with the nervous system, this is how the body communicates internally.

I will go into more detail in later articles about the particular neuroreceptors and hormones that the body uses for specific functions. Keep in mind that many are still unclassified and have properties that have not yet been observed and measured. The science of endocrinology and neurology have vast horizons to cover before we truly understand how these systems interrelate and function to produce conscious thought. But here are some great graphics of the known hormones and their organs of origin, thanks wikipedia!


Learning to Slow Down


Yoga is an extraordinarily powerful tool. Especially for someone with a hyperactive mind.

When I was 6 I was diagnosed with ADD and given a prescription for Ritalin. I was a little troublemaker with a big imagination; a dangerous combination for any parents. At six I was recommended by my first grade teacher to see a neurologist to examine my behavior and cognition; he had me play with blocks, asked me to touch my nose and keep track of both of my fingers at the same time. Some general cognitive tests. He thought medication would be best considering that it was not a severe case, but fit perfectly into the symptoms of ADD. Plus I struggled with behavior in school.

I took a pill each morning that had positive effects on my behavior for the classroom environment. It made me focus on learning rather than allowing my attention to wander and continually distract other people while they worked, which it often still does. My learning wasn’t affected, but everyone else’s learning. Over the next few years, it became obvious that I was a very disruptive student and did not do well with rules, organization, or authority. Especially unwarranted authority or meaningless rules. I still don’t like any of those things. My mind simply functions at a higher level and processes faster and more creatively with disorganization. Over time, I have come to view this as a creative attribute rather than a defect or disorder.

In high school I began questioning my need to take a pill in the morning. What made me so different from anyone else? My sophomore year I stopped taking it so much. In the summer between my sophomore and junior year I took summer school to get ahead. During summer school my parents and I did some behavioral analysis with one of the teachers; he was a pretty awesome teacher. He noticed significant shifts in my behaviors based on whether I had taken medication or not and would fill out evaluations throughout the days. It was obvious that the medication helped in school. This solidified my need for the medication for the remainder of high school, though now I was in charge. We upped the dosage because I had been taking the same pill since 1st grade and changed drugs to Conserta, a new time release formula that supposedly had superior release mechanisms.

Conserta was awful. Junior year of high school was probably one of the most depressing times in my life. The come-downs were extremely saddening and dark; some of the worst feelings that I have ever felt were on that drug. We tried again with Adderoll and that worked better, though nothing ever seemed as smooth as the Ritalin. I now attribute this to an increased awareness as a result of trying the different drugs, rather than the drugs themselves or Ritalin being superior to the others. This time was definitely an intense time of self-discovery and learning about myself, not to mention the fact that I was 17. It was a rough year; I sprained my ankle badly to take me out of rugby and my social life struggled due to the depressions of the drugs.

Senior year was much smoother; I learned to regulate the new drug, Adderoll. I had a phenomenal second semester of my senior year, in sports, socially, and in the classroom. I got a 3.8, scored in the national rugby championship to come in second in the nation, and developed friendships that remain strong today. Then college happened.

I left Sacramento for the unknown of Spokane, Washington in the eastern portion of the state. I isolated myself at Gonzaga, a Jesuit school. I still have the utmost confidence in the Jesuit education system; those priests are some of the smartest, most spiritual people on the planet. My high school had about 20 of them, but I didn’t meet too many in college, likely due to my aversion to church.

I struggled at first; I was alone when I had such close friends from high school and took plenty of classes off to hang out with new people. But school was ridiculously easy after the great education of Jesuit High and I didn’t have to try too hard. The rugby team was easy-going and kind of competitive; a complete opposition to my high school experience. Adderoll became less a part of my life than ever before.

Freshman year passed without much incident. Sophomore was much of the same, until the second semester when I started taking the core classes for my business major and realized that the business education was not for me. The teachers taught directly from text books and had a few tests a semester; which in my personal opinion becomes useless and forgotten information. I can learn from a text-book by myself; at least I thought this until I didn’t study at all. My grades were awful and my motivation even worse. Then I switched majors.

I had planned to do an international business so that I could travel and see the world all while making millions. It became pretty apparent that this course of study would not work, so I changed to French, which I had planned to minor in. This allowed me to spend one year in Paris, rather than the 5 months of a single semester that my business major would have allowed. My grades in French were not great and the teachers were hesitant to send me over; if I was struggling at Gonzaga, surely I would struggle in Paris. I probably would have if I wasn’t exposed to yoga.

My first days home were a bit boring, but my mom asked one day if I wanted to try yoga; which I had never really heard of and figured it might be a good workout. I took one class with Scott Emerich at East Wind in Roseville and got hooked. That summer, I took classes from Destiny and Ryan and a passion grew inside of me. Meditation, especially physical mediation, was unlike anything I had ever done before. I loved it and that summer did yoga every day. I knew I was leaving the country, but had become so hooked on my practice that I wanted to keep going while I was there. Ryan, who I am eternally grateful to, gave me a few yoga books like the Gita, and recorded classes from Rusty Wells and Bryan Kest.

I took my mat over to Paris and loved every second of France. My best friend in the whole world, Kevin Taya, was there and I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years. Kevin first visited my family as a foreign exchange student when we were sixteen and we were best friends ever since. His family became a second family to me and I spent Christmas, New Year’s, my birthday, and a few other holidays in his quaint and beautiful house in Nandy, about 45 minutes via RER (the public train system) Southeast of Paris.

My first semester, I got a 4.0. I worked hard to learn the language and immerse myself in the culture; it became apparent when my oral French skills improved so dramatically that I got compliments constantly from my teachers when I returned home when I had been previously critiqued (and rightfully so). I got a membership at Bikram Paris for a few months and did my first juice cleanse. I adjusted magnificently to the challenge of a new country, language, culture, and history; I also loved being an American around people from all over the world. But nothing is as expansive for the imagination as a new language in a new city, in my personal opinion.

I think of that year in Paris as the year that I learned who I was, or at least who I have the potential to be. Meditation changed my life, yoga was something I did to equilibriate my body physically and I could tell that the mental benefits were enormous. I did my practice most days. I had even gotten a new drug, Focalin, which was my favorite of all the drugs I had taken so far; the come-down was lighter than Adderoll and the “up” was not as intense. I probably used it a total of 5 times in France; I honestly forgot about it.

All things set aside, I no longer take medication. At all. Yoga taught me that going fast has its consequences; eventually the body will catch up with the mind. I have always been a speed demon in skiing, running, learning, reading, you name it I’ve tried to go fast doing it. Yoga taught me the joys of going slow, of actually enjoying the moments as they come and go instead of always rushing to the next thing. Being in a rush is not how you want to live! Because truthfully, life is happening all around you all the time; when you are solely focused on only one things its easy to miss what is happening around you.

Now I think that I am learning to slow down even more; to allow my mind to fluctuate rather than reacting to sensations or feelings. Now I am be able to observe these peaks and valleys as they happen. This is especially important in emotional intelligence; to sift through situations with intuition and mindfulness rather than bulldozing others to get what you want (something I have done my whole life) or by forcing your own agenda on the situation. Slowing down allows you to actually enjoy the things that you cultivate and create in your life, rather than just moving on to what’s next. Take a deep breath and enjoy the flow; it will only happen once.

Carpe Diem is a concept that I think fits in well here, but lets tweak it a bit to Carpe Omnia. Seize every moment of your limited time.

Anatomy of the Spine (part 2: Thoracic)

The twelve vertebrae in the middle of your back comprise the thoracic spine, below the 7 cervical and above the 5 lumbar vertebrae. Each vertebrae connects ribs in the front of the body to form the rib cage which connects to the spine between the thoracic vertebrae. The thoracic spine could be considered the most versatile, though the cervical is capable of greater rotation and the lumbar provides more support for the skeletal structure. It also protects and provides nerve supplies for the essential organs including the heart, liver, kidneys, stomach, lungs, and intestines inside of the rib cage. This area of the spine is one of the most important and is also one of the most unusual skeletal structures seen in nature (due to being the middle of the unique, three curve spine).

The thoracic discs are particular, allow for certain movements spineand more flexibility and rotation at the superior portion.You can see the differences between the cervical discs and lumbar discs on the right. The curvature of the spine is very apparent and is what allows for human biped movement (apes use their hands on the ground because of the singular curve in their spine; this hints towards the progression of the human spine. You can also see the significant rotation that the thoracic vertebrae allow for, giving the skeletal structure mobility above the lumbar spine.

The Thoracic spine is one of the most important nervous gateways in the body, creating the gateway between the peripheral nerves spinal nerve mapof the upper body and the central nervous system. The peripheral nerves begin to leave the spinal nerves at the ganglion nerves, or connective nerve clusters, for the arms where the thoracic spine begins; the nerves then cascade down to connect all of the ribs, until the lumbar spine connects to the lower body and lowest abdominal organs. Essentially, the nervous system controls the entire upper body through the thoracic nerve connections and the biggest vital organs sit right in the middle of these nerves. nervesThe thoracic spine connects directly to the rib cage, making it one of the most important protective structures of the human

autonomic nervous systemskeleton. The heart has nerves that extend up into the neck (think about the thyroid’s control over the heart) and is largely connected to the middle vertebrae of the spine. The lungs also share these thoracic nerves and nestle the heart; they are meant to provide the heart with support and surround it. The stomach, liver, pancreas, small intestine, and adrenals share the lower portions of the thoracic nerves, while the large intestine has connections to both the lumbar spine and the thoracic spine. thoracic muscles

There are many different muscles of the thoracic spine and middle back because the thoracic spine is the gateway to control center of the upper body, which is where the majority of movement takes place (the hands and fingers are finely tuned and the shoulder is a durable and versatile joint). The vertical muscles that extend up the spine and interconnect vertebrae are the deepest layer of muscle and the diaphragm (the breathing muscle) is also included in this musculature.

deep thoracic musclesThe deepest muscles of the spine interconnect the vertebrae to ensure structural stability. There are also fascia that extend up and down the length of the spine, known as the vertical erectors (they help humans to stand up straight). vertical spinal erectors You can see them detailed on the left. There is also significantly denser ligamentation towards the inferior portion of the spine, leaving the upper portion more mobile and connected with muscular tissue. The spinal cord itself is completely protected and supported by these muscles, allowing for the extensive movements that humans are capable of.

This concludes the second part of three about the human spine and its anatomical functionality. If you have any questions, feel free to comment, but stay tuned for part 3 where we will dive into the lumbar portion of the human spine.

Anatomy of the Spine (Part1: Cervical)

Cervical Spine

The human spine has 24 vertebrae and is usually separated into 3 sections: the Lumbar curve, the Thoracic curve, the Cervical curve. I will be doing a three-part series for the spine, as the spine as a whole is too complicated to summarize effectively in one post. We will move from top to bottom and each post will get longer as we move closer to the base of the spine. For now, we will start with the seven Cervical vertebrae which allow for the greatest rotation and support the neck, skull, and brain. These are the most mobile vertebrae and have extraordinarily complex neural, venous, and muscular connections and passageways.

Cervical Vertebrae 1

C1 (C1-C7 are cervical, C1 being on top) is the highest spinal vertebrae and is also known as the Atlas. This is drawn from Greek mythology as a metaphor because the atlas supports the globe of the head. This vertebrae is special as you can see from its shape; the brain stem extends into the vertebrae at the same time as the vertebrae has lots of room to tilt forward, back, and to the sides. The atlas is also fused with the Axis (C2) and has no body as a

Posterior ligaments of C2
Posterior ligaments of C2

result. The Axis is the seat upon which the Atlas rotates and provides support to circularly rotate the head. These first two vertebrae are particularly significant because the brain stem connects the spinal cord at the base of C2 to the brain.

C3 through C6 are somewhat uniform and share many characteristics. In order to move forward, we need some vocab work and general characteristics of vertebrae to be able to compare them.

Vertebral Characteristics : A typical vertebra consists of two Vertebral arch labelledessential parts— ananterior segment, the body, and a posterior part, the vertebral or neural arch; these enclose a foramen, the vertebral foramen. The vertebral arch consists of a pair of pedicles and a pair of laminæ, and supports seven processes—four articular, two transverse, and one spinous.

body – The thick connecting structure supporting the bone
vertebral arch – The extensions from the body which connect to each other through ligaments and muscle tissue
pedicles – The two short process which connect the arch to the body of the vertebrae
laminae – two broad plates extending from the pedicles
process – anatomical terms for an extension, or outgrowth of tissue from a larger body
transverse processes – project up and down from where the lamina meets the pedicles. In the cervical spine this is pierced by the transverse foramen, which is discussed below
spinous processes – the fin like posterior tip of the vertebrae that extends back from the lamina
articular processes – these connect the vertebrae at the junction of the lamina and pedicles, form the links of the spine
tubercle – describes a round nodule, small eminence, or warty outgrowth found on bones or skin

Now that we have a decent idea about the characteristics of vertebrae we can look in detail at the cervical vertebrae. The first six vertebrae are wider than they are long and they overlap with the front of the vertebrae below. The Laminae are narrow, but widen on the inferior side, so each vertebrae is wider at the bottom than top make the lower vertebrae wider than the upper. The spinous processes are short and bifid (split), with one end being longer than the other. Articular pillars are formed by the superior and inferior articular processes that have fused and link the vertebrae together. The transverse processes are pierced by the transverse foramen, which gives passage to the vertebral arteryvertebral vein, and a plexus of sympathetic nerves. The seventh foramen lacks the artery, but contains the vein and sympathetic nerves.

The seventh cervical vertebrae is fairly unique. It is called the Vertebra prominens and has a long and palpable spinous process Cervical Nervesthat isn’t split and that you can see in about 70% of people, hence its name. It’s considerably bigger spinous process gives it more support for veins and nerves which start to bundle heavily and for the muscles that extend horizontally in the shoulders and down the arms. See more detail on the nervous connections to the right.

The veins and arteries of the cervical vertebrae run parallel to the left and right of the spinal column. It is a complex wiring that interlace with each vertebrae.

Cervical Veins

The muscles of the neck are detailed in a prior post here. Stay tuned for the Thoracic spine, the middle 12 vertebral columns and how they function within the body.


Yoga and Drugs (Part 3: anxiety)

anxiety physiology

Anxiety is something that yoga vigorously attacks. Anxiety is essentially a lack of presence and ability to act in the present moment due to the consequences of the past or expectations for the future. Yoga has been clinically proven to reduce anxiety and seems to be more effective than meditation in the scientific literature, but long-term studies are still needed for determining obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety attacks. I know people with PTSD that practice and they say yoga is life-changing for them. Long term clinical trials with strict controls are needed to really see the positive effects and long-term benefits of yoga on these symptoms.

Yoga forces concentration upon the present moment; it is nigh impossible to do handstands, arm balances, and back-bends without complete focus. Especially when you are pushing the limits of your own body, you need to give it the complete attention it deserves. Yoga trains the brain to ignore “what-if” situations, giving your mind the capacity to be completely present inside of your body. “What if my foot cramps?”, “What if my leg hurts?”. These no longer become possible because you are reacting to the feeling in your foot and leg rather than predicting an outcome.

But it’s not your fault that you are anxious. American society feeds on it, telling you about the things that you need to prepare for and all of the bad things that could happen to you and have happened to others. The news is an amazingly good example. They literally go around finding things to make you startled and uneasy so that you listen to their advice and keep watching. Commercials are another good one. They tell us what we need these things and that if we don’t have them, our lives will not be complete, happy, or fulfilling. American culture also tells us that we should be busy on our cell phones so that we look important, which leads to an inability to focus on what is actually happening in our lives. All of these sources lead us further away from the truth that is inside.

Really, peace and contentment is something that you cultivate and grow. The more time you spend being present, discerning feelings as they pass, and bringing yourself to a place of gratitude, the more ability you will have to over-rule anxiety. Being grateful that you are alive can help alleviate the anxiety over work, take time to consider the circumstances of your life and how lucky you are. It doesn’t come naturally and consumerism fights your ability to be content with what is.

It comes back to the dopamine, serotonin, and over-exciting the central nervous system. Anxiety is almost 100% created by a perception, but is accompanied by physical symptoms like muscular tension (which yoga definitely helps), problems with concentration (which yoga definitely helps), and fatigue/restlessness (which yoga definitely helps). People with symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder claim that yoga helps, though long terms studies have yet to be done on reducing obsession. One of the most debilitating symptoms of anxiety disorder is fear of death, which is one of the most important parts of yoga. In yoga, Shivasana, or final corpse pose is a meditation upon death and liberates the mind and soul into the present.

All of this comes back to yoga as a treatment option for anxiety, possibly more effective than any other for its symptoms. Being content with the present is about breathing and finding beauty in the small things around you, not buying cars and houses or throwing huge parties and getting wasted. Anxiety is fought by sitting still for a few minutes in the morning, taking a walk in the afternoon, and regular yoga practice will be sure to expedite anything you are already doing.  The bliss of not worrying about anything comes from breaking away from the things that you think you need, and detaching from them. This is how the detachment taught in yoga is the ultimate freedom, especially from things such as anxiety.

This concludes the three-part section on psychiatric drugs and the clinically proven effects of yoga on DSM spectrum disorders of anxiety, depression, and hyperactivity.

Here are some resources for you to reference
Yoga health benefits:

Yoga for Anxiety: